A veggie burger (with cheese), sweet potato fries and smoky ketchup.
To be honest, that's all we can think about today.
What's going on behind the scenes when we get ultra-specific cravings like these? Often, these cravings tend to repeat daily for some time until we satiate them with repetitive feedings of the same meal. We don't tire of the flavor — in fact, eating the food we crave only makes us want it more. Why do our bodies tell us we need a veggie cheeseburger with sweet potato fries and smoky ketchup over and over and over until the burger restaurant employees start to think we're insane?
When your body craves specific foods like almond-butter banana toast or those insane beet tacos from the place by your office, it's actually because your body is undergoing a mild form of malnutrition; the kind that often befalls those in developed societies with full access to Whole Foods and quinoa-kale-poke bows. These specific cravings can actually be directly linked to deficiencies in specific vitamins, minerals nutrients we lack.
You know that chocolate pretzel thing you can't stop fantasizing about? You're probably obsessed with it because your body's low on magnesium.
Chocolate is full of magnesium.
See where we're going with this?
In her book CHOOSE YOUR FOODS: Like Your Life Depends on Them author, dietician and naturopathic doctor Colleen Huber made a handy dandy compilation of which cravings signify which types of nutrient deficiencies … take a look, and see if it explains why you've been craving that thing you've been craving:
"Food cravings can seem strong enough to pick you up and carry you straight to the refrigerator or convenience store independent of your will and better judgment," Huber writes. "For many women, cravings are especially intense in the week or so before menstruation. But many men, older women, teens and children can have strong cravings too. Let’s look at what is behind this force. Naturopathic physician Tori Hudson, ND, describes the condition as a mild malnutrition, certainly not with severe overt consequences as say scurvy or rickets. Rather, a great many people on the Standard American Diet (SAD in more ways than one) suffer from a milder malnutrition from eating only depleted, processed foods and not enough whole, nutrient-rich foods.
As a result, we end up craving the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we lack. But while your body may know that you are missing for example potassium, your conscious mind is not aware of the flavor of potassium. Instead, because of familiarity, you can reminisce and feel hungry for the flavor of salty foods, which are high in another cation, sodium, and which have their appeal partly rooted in sodium and potassium. The salty foods that your conscious mind desires has its greatest ability to quench those cravings due to the salty foods’ high sodium content."
So, does this mean that next time we're really hankering for a shot of tequila or some nice cocaine, we should just shut up eat a fish taco instead?
Well … yeah, actually. According to nationwide drug rehab facility Promises Treatment Center, nutritional therapy (especially via protein-rich diets) is key to substance abuse recovery. Even addiction to certain foods can be combated through exposure to other foods simply because a well-balanced diet minimizes the nutrient deficiencies that lead to cravings and addictive behavior.
Eating, it seems, is a pretty right and proper way to set your body straight. Whether you're dealing with a non-pathological, run of the mill craving for spicy shrimp and grits or a concerning dependence on IHOP pancakes to keep you from losing your mind, it seems that a simple analysis of what your cravings reveal about your nutrient levels could really help get them under control.